EEOC Files Transgender Discrimination Claim

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As we predicted at our June 2 Employment Breakfast, the EEOC is forging an aggressive path to protecting the rights of Transgender employees. Consistent with its Strategic Enforcement Plan goal to remove employment barriers to Transgender employees, the EEOC filed a lawsuit on June 5. 2015 against Deluxe Financial Services in Minnesota Federal Court. The suit seeks injunctive relief and financial compensation for the affected employee, a male employee who transitioned to present as a female. The employee had taken the following steps in her transition: confirmed with management her intent to present as a female, undergoing hormone treatment, changing her legal name to a female identified name, and providing documentation of a medical diagnosis of gender dysphoria. 

The suit alleges the three areas we covered as potential trouble spots: refusing access to the women’s restroom, prevalence of hurtful epithets (cheetah, boy, Tarzan), and intentional use of incorrect pretransition gender pronouns (referring to the employee as “he” after transitioning her gender presentation). 

The EEOC alleges that Deluxe Financial discriminated against the employee on the basis of her transgender status, on the basis of her transition status, and by subjecting her to a hostile environment resulting from a failure to conform to traditional gender expectations. 

Transgender rights will continue to gain momentum in the employment arena. Employers facing this situation are urged to confer with legal counsel to avoid creating liability.


About the Authors

Karen Kalzer

Ms. Kalzer practices employment and education law with an emphasis on defending complex litigation for communities of faith, non-profits, schools and private employers.

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